Ashke needs me to listen to him and follow my plan. My plan at this point is to work on forward at the canter. And the correct lead. If he will go forward on the correct lead for me, then I will be happy. He needs to gain confidence at the canter. He needs to trust that cantering for long periods of time (ie five circuits of the outdoor arena) is okay. He needs to trust that I am cantering with him, and we are both loving it.
Yesterday, N expressed some hope that I would continue to ask Ashke to use his back and not lose the progress we've made on his back. It caused me to feel anxious and rather than tell her my plan, I immediately changed course and started asking him to do something I know is beyond him right now.
How do I know it is beyond him? Because when he is asked to canter to the left and lift his back, he immediately changes leads in the back and we are cross cantering. Then he breaks to a trot and gets upset. He does this routine in side reins and with me on him. He may always have difficulty. It stems back to the right hamstring injury and all of the rehab we have done. I know this mentally, but I don't always remember.
On Weds, when I asked Ashke to canter, he did awesome, but I didn't worry about asking him to lift his back. I just asked him to carry us forward at a regular, cadenced canter. Today, when I asked for the canter and for him to lift with his back, he fell apart. We cross cantered. He got tense. He got anxious. I got frustrated. Then we stopped. The progress I felt like we had made the past three rides, dissolved in misgivings and mistrust.
You only have to hit me one time. Tomorrow, when I ride, I will just ask for a canter and for him to carry me smoothly. We will go back to our plan.
(And I will learn, again, that I have to follow my heart. I respect and admire N so much, that sometimes wanting her to approve and be proud of me overrides my own thought process. And having her work with me, act as an impromptu trainer, increases her authority in my mind, even if it's not true in reality. And N - this is my issue. Not something you are doing. I am owning this. I want you to continue being you: my friend, my sometime trainer, my riding buddy, and my sounding board.)
I told N today on our ride home that he isn't ready yet to collect himself or use his back the way he should. I think the saddle is playing a part, but I also think it is just what he and I need to gain confidence on, as a team. We are trying to run before we can walk. We need to get him stronger and more confident in himself. If we can accomplish that this summer, combined with increasing his strength and conditioning his back, then we will be at a point in the fall to go back to more classical dressage training and continue to work on his top line.